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Kansas Catholic Conference leader decries support for Sebelius

Catholic World News - March 10, 2009

A statement by liberal Catholic activists backing the nomination of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to become Secretary of Health and Human Services has drawn a sharp rebuke from the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference. Michael Schuttloffel attacks the activists' "Orwellian claim" that Sebelius has shown her support for Church teaching that abortion is wrong. In particular, Schuttloffel derides the claim that the Kansas governor supported a program to benefit pregnant women, saying that claim is "outrageous and shameful" in light of the Sebelius track record. Analyzing the legislative record in Kansas, he concludes: "The fact is, Governor Sebelius’s record of uncompromising support for the most extreme elements of the abortion industry is beyond anyone’s power to misrepresent."

The full statement by Michael Schuttloffel, the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, follows:

Recently, 26 Catholics – helpfully described as scholars, theologians, and “leaders” – issued a joint statement in support of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius’s nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services. The statement is but the latest volley in the ongoing feud between those Catholics who believe that our faith requires public officials to oppose abortion– a view promulgated by the Pope in communion with the bishops, and those who believe that public officials are free to support policies that advance abortion– a view promulgated by a host of pro-abortion public officials.

While there is much to dispute in the joint statement, two of its assertions warrant particular scrutiny. The statement contends that “Kathleen Sebelius has made clear that she agrees with church teaching that abortion is wrong and has lived and acted according to that belief.” As evidence of this Orwellian claim, the statement points to the fact that: “Governor Sebelius signed the Senator Stan Clark Pregnancy Maintenance Initiative Program, a bill which funded support services for pregnant women and alternatives to abortion.”

In fact, Governor Sebelius’s 2010 budget proposal eliminates the Senator Stan Clark Pregnancy Maintenance Initiative Program. The program was first funded in 2000, before Kathleen Sebelius was Governor. In 2004, Governor Sebelius used her line-item veto to eliminate funding for the program. Senator Clark spent much of the last day of the session trying to muster enough votes to override her line-item veto of the program, but fell just short. Not long after, he was killed in an automobile accident.

The following year, the legislature passed legislation that named the program after Senator Clark and reinstated its funding, though at a significantly reduced level. This the Governor signed. Whatever her reasons for doing so, she is now attempting to get rid of the program. Lest it be said that this is out of necessity, given the fiscal crisis facing Kansas and other states, it should be observed that she is fighting to hold certain other spending programs– programs she considers to be priorities– harmless. To suggest that she has somehow championed the Stan Clark Pregnancy Maintenance Initiative is outrageous and shameful.

The statement goes on to inform us that: “Governor Sebelius signed Alexa's Law, to deal with certain crimes against unborn children, which defines an unborn child as a fetus at any state of gestation from fertilization to birth. As a result, if a pregnant woman was murdered, the offender could be charged with the murder of the unborn child as well.”

Unsurprisingly, there is more to the story. For years, Sebelius opposed prosecution for violent crimes against the unborn. In 1989, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a fetus is not a human being under the state's homicide laws. Speaking in opposition to a pro-life proposal to change that law, then-Representative Sebelius said, “There are certain inalienable rights established for a person, but those are not applied in utero.” In 2007, pro-life legislators managed to attach Alexa’s Law to important crime legislation supported by the Governor. Rather than veto the entire legislative package-- which included both the Alexa’s Law language and the crime legislation she had sought-- the Governor signed the bill.

The fact is, Governor Sebelius’s record of uncompromising support for the most extreme elements of the abortion industry is beyond anyone’s power to misrepresent. It is clear. It is unambiguous. As a legislator and governor, she has opposed any and every form of abortion restriction, including parental notification. She even vetoed abortion clinic licensing, twice, despite the uproar over a Kansas City abortion clinic where fetal remains were kept in the same refrigerator as food and where a dead rat was found in the hallway. Not even the death of a mentally disabled teenager who underwent a third-trimester abortion at George Tiller’s infamous clinic in Wichita could convince her that abortion clinics should face licensing regulation.

Doug Kmiec spent 2008 trying to convince Catholics that Barack Obama was the true pro-life candidate. Now that President Obama has overturned the Mexico City policy, the Bush embryonic stem-cell policy, and begun the process of overturning conscience protection regulations-- all in less than two months' work-- Professor Kmiec and his associates have another bridge to sell you. It’s in Kansas. You know, Kansas: the late-term abortion capital of the country.

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